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Origin Of Pineapple Fruit: Where Do Pineapples Come From

Pineapple is one of the world’s most popular tropical fruits. Did you know that it’s produced in every tropical country in the world? Or that 80 percent of farmed pineapple ends up canned? Pineapple plant history is pretty interesting, and although it requires a warm climate, you can actually grow one in a container in your home if you don’t live in the tropics.

Where Do Pineapples Come from Anyway?

The pineapple, or Ananas comusus, is a type of bromeliad that is native to the New World only. It is cultivated throughout the world now, but it originated in South America. When Columbus and other Europeans arrived in the New World, they found pineapple growing all over the Caribbean, but modern botanists believe the true origin of pineapple fruit is in South America’s Parana Paraguay River basin.

Fun Facts about Pineapple Plant History

People native to South and Central America cultivated and enjoyed pineapple for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived on the scene. But when the newcomers got there, they knew they had a delicacy to bring back home that would be special.

It took a long time to travel in those days, so pineapple, along with other tropical new world fruits, became a status symbol. It was something only the wealthy could afford, and so it became a staple at special meals and holidays. Some people even rented pineapples to use as centerpieces on the dinner table, and only the truly wealthy could actually eat the fruit.

This association with wealth and status turned into a decorative element. The pineapple fruit remains a popular motif in interior design and even clothing, but in past centuries it was used to denote status, generosity, and wealth. Here are some other interesting pineapple facts:

  • The pineapple is not in any way related to pine trees or apples. It got this name because it looks like a pine cone and yet is a fruit like an apple.
  • Portuguese explorers were most responsible for spreading pineapple throughout the world, bringing it to Africa and India.
  • The biggest producers of pineapple in the world are Brazil, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • Pineapple was introduced in Hawaii by Captain James Cook. Dole in Hawaii has been growing and canning pineapple since 1903, making the fruit the state’s biggest crop.
  • Pineapple ranks third among canned fruits in the world, behind only applesauce and peaches.

Today, some people grow pineapple in their tropical gardens, mostly for decoration but also for the occasional fruit. If you don’t live in the tropics, you can still enjoy this plant in a greenhouse or an indoor container. You may just get a fruit out of it too.

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History Of Sedums: Learn About Sedum Stonecrop Plants

Some of my favorite low maintenance plants are sedums. I like to tuck them in amongst a rockery, along paths, in containers and even have a few as houseplants. Once established, these are the type of plant you don’t have to worry about when you go on extended holiday. They are succulents and not only useful as beautiful carefree specimens, but the history of sedums includes use as food and medicine.

Sedums can be found wild in most parts of the world. They are especially adapted to poor soils and can be very drought tolerant. They may be deciduous or evergreen, depending upon type. Additional characteristics vary by plant, with some low growing ground covers, others trailing, hanging specimens and still other varieties are taller vertical spectacles. The most common in the group have leaves that are plump and waxy with starry flower clusters that rise above the foliage – such as Autumn Joy sedum.

Sedum Plant History

The Sedum genus name comes from the Latin ‘sedo,’ meaning “to sit.” They are found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, Mexico and a few are even native to North America. Recognized species go by very colorful names such as Burro’s Tail, Gold Chain, Bird’s Bread, and Creeping Tom. The versatile plants are also in a bit of a tug-of-war surrounding their genus name. Some in the family are now classed as members of Hylotelephium, while others retain their Sedum status.

Such changes continue to occur in the botanical world as scientists unravel the genes of plants and reposition them to reflect more accurate family groups. As garden and greenhouse specimens, sedums have become popular since the early 1900s but were used by collectors as early as the 1800s.

History of Sedums as Food and Medicine

Anything you ingest should be carefully researched. This goes for the edible and medicinal varieties of sedum stonecrop plants. There are over 400 species in the family, some of which could cause illness if ingested. The juice in the succulent leaves and stems can be used topically to quell burn symptoms and on small scrapes and scratches.

One variety, Sedum sarmentosum, was reportedly used in Asia to treat inflammatory conditions. Several species of Sedum are undergoing trials as treatments for pain and swelling, with promising early results. As a food, sedums are used in salads and soups. S. sarmentosum and S. reflexum are the two most notable varieties that have a history of food use.

Fun Types of Sedum Stonecrop Plants

There are many unique forms of sedum plants. Here is a sampling of fun types to grow in your garden:

Groundcovers

  • Two-Row sedum (S. spurium) – An evergreen, mat forming species with numerous colorful cultivars
  • Broadleaf stonecrop (S. spathulifolium) – Silver to lime green leaves, branching, low, spreading plant.
  • Spanish stonecrop (S. hispanicum) – Close set, finely textured leaves that blend seamlessly into each other with blue-gray color.

Upright

  • Ice Plant stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile) – A vertical classic with a huge umbel of tiny starry flowers.
  • Coppertone sedum (S. nussbaumerianum) – Bronze foliage and orange-gold flowers.
  • Orpine (S. telephium syn. Hylotelephium telephium) – Bluish purple leaves and deeply hued stems.

Trailing

  • Burro’s Tail (S. morganianum) – Classic chubby, bluish green leaves reminiscent of a burro’s tail
  • Carpet sedum (S. lineare) – Tiny buttercup yellow foliage with dense growth and cascading habit.

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How Old Is Composting: Learn About The Origins Of Composting

Composting is an old, traditional agricultural practice of replacing depleted nutrients in the soil by adding nutrient rich, decayed organic material. This material can be obtained from anything organic:

  • plant matter – fallen leaves, grass clippings, wood chips
  • animal waste – cow or horse manure
  • food waste – kitchen scraps, eggshells, banana peels

Compostable items are usually placed in a pile or bin to naturally breakdown down into a soil-like material. Each ingredient added to the compost pile adds different nutrients to the compost as they decay.

This practice of sustainable gardening was first recorded on clay tablets of the Mesopotamian Akkadian Empire dated back to 2334 BC. Composting practices were also recorded in ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Native American, Scottish and Chinese societies. Composting was referenced in the Bible and the Talmud, as well as mentioned in many literary works, including the writings of William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon. In early United States history, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington Carver were all advocates for using compost as fertilizer.

Composting History Over the Ages

Though it is impossible to trace the exact origins of composting, in the early 1900s, British agronomist Sir Albert Howard popularized modern day sustainable gardening practices. After spending nearly thirty years in India studying and experimenting with composting practices, Sir Howard published the book An Agriculture Testament, detailing his “Indore Method” of layering compostable materials in the compost pile. By this point, manufactured chemical fertilizers had made home composting nearly obsolete, but Sir Howard’s work shed a new light on the subject. In the 1960s, J.I. Rodale continued Sir Howard’s work and popularized composting and other organic gardening methods in the Unites States through his many publications.

Today, composting continues to gain popularity as a simple way to reuse waste. For decades, large cities all over the world have been experimenting with city-wide composting programs to reduce municipal waste. Approximately 25% of the waste that is hauled away by municipalities and disposed of in landfills or incinerators is compostable waste that would be better used to fertilize our gardens. Composting can be done in a large city-wide capacity or in small specially designed compost bins for small gardens.

These days composting is not just an easy way to save money and recycle waste, it is also becoming a booming industry. The rise in popularity of organic gardening and composting has created new job opportunities in waste management and processing, and the manufacture of composting bins and tools. Following in J.I. Rodale’s footsteps, each year hundreds of new publications advocate different methods of composting. With the increasing interest in all the benefits of composting, it certainly isn’t just a fad that will fall out of fashion again any time soon.

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Cottage Garden History – Traditional Cottage Garden Designs And Uses

English cottage gardens are never bare and seldom ugly…among the things made by man nothing is prettier than an English cottage garden, and they often teach lessons that the ‘great’ gardeners should learn.” – William Robinson (1838-1935)

While the cottage gardens that British landscape designer William Robinson became acquainted with in his lifetime had a bit more splendor than the ones that originated in the late 14th and 15th centuries, his quote is just as applicable to those early cottage gardens as it is to the cottage garden style landscapes of present day.

History of Cottage Gardens

The introduction of the cottage garden came on the heels of destruction, namely the bubonic plague. The Black Death resulted in a labor shortage and housing surplus which spurred changes in the social ladder, because peasants now had the leverage to elevate their position in society. Royalty and landowners needed their labor and now those in the lower classes could make demands and improve their lot in life. Some peasants, who had been landless serfs, now became free cottagers, renting a cottage and a portion of land (an acre or two). The land they resided on was just enough for subsistence farming, which necessitated the need for them to supplement their income by working for others for a wage.

Given that a traditional cottage garden was focused on supporting the family, the plants grown in the garden were more practical and functional rather than ornamental. The garden design was informal and densely planted with culinary and medicinal plants, which may have seemed chaotic to the outside observer; however, it was an organized chaos to the one intimate with the garden. Every square inch of ground in a cottage garden was planted with tried and true vegetables, herbs, fruits or berries.

Vertical gardening was also evident with climbing plants twisting up walls, trellis and fences. As you wandered through the cottage garden, you may have even encountered a beehive or even livestock. Flowers had less emphasis in the early cottage gardens, but had a presence nonetheless, albeit more for utilitarian reasons than decorative. They were intermingled between plantings for aiding and abetting pollination and harvested for use inside the cottage to help mask odors and repel vermin. It is important to note that even though the plantings of a cottage garden were practical in nature, they were a thing of immeasurable beauty all the same.

By the advent of the Victorian era (the era of the aforementioned William Robinson), the style of cottage gardens had begun to change for a few reasons. With the wheels of industrialization turning, the mass production and distribution of food was becoming possible, which helped decrease the reliance on self-sustainability, offering the opportunity to introduce more flowers than edibles. Members of the well-to-do gentry also put their own spin on cottage gardening which, in contrast to early cottage gardens, were a display of affluence with abundant plantings of flowers and other ornamentals. Notable garden designers, such as William Robinson, also helped to popularize the flower laden version of cottage gardening and, as such, this has become the version of cottage gardening we are most familiar with today.

Inspired to create your own cottage garden after reading about cottage garden history? Check out our top 10 plants for cottage gardens!

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Heirloom Dill Plants: Old-Fashioned Dill Varieties And Uses

I blame it on my father, my obsession with pickles that is. He grew up in a post-war home where the Victory Garden was still very much in evidence, which meant pickling was a necessity. I don’t discriminate and will eat anything pickled, from onions to watermelon, but my particular favorite is the dill pickle. It’s all about the dill flavoring, and it seems I’m not the only one with a fascination for the herb. Let’s read on to learn more about the fascinating history of dill weed plants.

History of Dill Plants

According to my pickle pal, Dad, it’s getting impossible to find real old-fashioned dill pickles, the kind his mom made. True or just the musings of an aging mind (sorry Dad!), I thought I might try my hand at my Grandmother’s recipe. First, though, I wanted to learn a bit more about dill.

Dill is steeped in ancient lore. Native to the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia, dill (Anethum graveolens) belongs to the same family as parsley and celery. Ancient Egyptian medical texts refer to the use of dill as far back as 3,000 B.C. What was dill used for back then? It seems the herb was useful in warding off witches as well as being a popular aphrodisiac. To the ancient Greeks, dill indicated that one had considerable wealth, while to the Romans, dill weed was considered good luck.

For centuries, many cultures utilized dill medicinally. Dill seed, called “meetinghouse seeds,” were given by both Quakers and Puritans to their children to chew on at church to quell growling tummies. This might have something to do with the meaning of dill. Dill comes from the Old Norse ‘dylla,’ which means to soothe or lull.

Old-fashioned dill has long been highly prized and was, in fact, taxed or tithed on many occasions, including when Edward I of England lacked money in the coffers to repair the London Bridge. He did what any monarch at the time would do and taxed dill plants.

About Heirloom Dill Plants

Heirloom dill, like other heritage plants, tends to have better flavor than more modern counterparts. Fresh dill with its licorice-like flavor tastes much akin to fennel and is, in fact, often mistaken for fennel fronds.

Varieties of old-fashioned dill include:

  • ‘Bouquet’
  • ‘Delikat’
  • ‘Dukat’
  • ‘Fernleaf’
  • ‘Hercules’
  • ‘Long Island Mammoth’
  • ‘Mammoth’
  • ‘Tetra’
  • ‘Vierling’

Most are taller varieties of dill that can grow from 3-5 feet (1-1.5 m.) in height, but some, like ‘Fernleaf,’ are dwarf varieties that only get to around 12-18 inches (30-46 cm.) tall. Some are more suitable for delicate seasoning of fish or summer squash while others, like ‘Mammoth,’ are the quintessential old-fashioned dill perfect for pickling.

So now that I’ve found the perfect pickling dill, I’m bound and determined to make some old-fashioned dill pickles. After all, my pickle pal and I are in good company; 2.5 billion Americans crave these sour treats just as much as we do.

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Heirloom Sweet Peas: Growing Antique Sweet Pea Plants

Heirloom sweet peas, or Lathyrus odoratus, are an old-time garden favorite. Not to be confused with garden shell peas, all parts of this plant are toxic. That doesn’t mean, however, that its growers don’t have fond memories of working in the garden planting these fragrant blooms. In recent years, these beautiful and delicate flowers of yesteryear seem to be enjoying a well-deserved and exciting comeback, as a new generation of growers welcome these flowers into their gardens. With this, unique cultivars of antique sweet peas have once again come to the forefront of our flower beds.

Heirloom Sweet Peas

Though there are some perennial varieties of sweet pea, most antique sweet peas available online are considered to be annual flowers. Old-fashioned sweet peas are open-pollinated, which means that they will grow true-to-seed when saved and planted each season. Many heirloom varieties, passed along through generations, are prized for their large and highly fragrant flowers. Some cultivars are even grown specifically to be shown in flower exhibitions.

In addition to their early bloom time, fragrance, and attractiveness to pollinators, sweet peas make an excellent addition to cut flower arrangements and landscape plantings.

Growing Antique Sweet Peas

Thriving in cooler temperatures, the success of the plants will greatly depend upon the climate within your own garden. With careful planning, even those who live in warm growing regions can achieve success when growing sweet pea plants. Since these plants are cool season annuals, the seeds should be planted directly into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring in cold climate zones or in late fall in areas where the winters are somewhat mild.

In these growing zones, the plants will over winter as seedlings and resume growth and bloom when weather begins to warm in the spring. Sweet peas do not tolerate excessive summer heat well and may not bloom if planted too late in the season.

To encourage better germination, soak the sweet pea seeds in water at least 24 hours before planting. Plant the seed according to package instructions into well-draining, weed-free soil. The garden bed should be deeply amended, as the heavy feeding sweet peas are prone to develop long tap roots. Once the plants have 6-8 sets of true leaves, pinch back the growth tip if you wish to encourage more blooms and bushier growth habit. Trellis the plants vertically as they continue to grow.

Favorite heirloom sweet pea varieties include:

  • ‘Dorothy Eckford’
  • ‘Annie B Gilroy’
  • ‘Captain of the Blues’
  • ‘April in Paris’
  • ‘Spencer Ruffled’
  • ‘North Shore’
  • ‘Painted Lady’

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History Of Companion Planting – How Did Companion Planting Start

Companion planting is one of those traditional, old-school gardening strategies that just makes sense. And that may be why it’s making a comeback. Long before there were pesticides, herbicides, and industrial fertilizers, people planted certain plants together for greatest benefit. Here’s a little history and some tips for getting started.

How Did Companion Planting Start?

The history of companion planting is not well documented because it is likely a practice with ancient roots. There is evidence of this type of gardening and agriculture from around the world. And, it probably began soon after humans first settled down more than 10,000 years ago to begin farming and gave up the nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

People around the world, for thousands of years, have been using companion planting techniques, but one example from North America stands out: the planting of the “three sisters” by Native Americans. Europeans arriving here learned a valuable lesson in the companion planting of beans, corn, and squash. The corn provided a support for climbing bean vines, the beans added nitrogen to the soil, and the leaves of squash plants provided a mulch to hold water in the soil.

Taking Lessons from the Past – Companion Gardening Today

The many examples of companion planting throughout history can be used today to make gardening more efficient, cost-effective, and organic. Here are some ideas from traditional agriculture to get you started:

  • Try planting beans and corn together with lettuces at their bases. The taller plants will help shade the greens that need cooler temperatures to thrive.
  • Plant marigolds near vegetables that rabbits might nibble on. They don’t like the flower’s smell. Marigold roots may also repel nematodes in the soil.
  • Dill attracts wasps that eat cabbageworms, so plant the herb alongside your cabbage row.
  • Put radishes near squash and cucumbers. It acts as a trap crop for cucumber beetles.
  • Garlic and chives near rose bushes help repel aphids.
  • Plant beans near potatoes. Beans fix nitrogen and add it to the soil, and potatoes are heavy nitrogen users.
  • Grow squash wherever weeds are an issue. The large canopy of leaves help suppress them.
  • Always plant flowers near your vegetable garden. They look pretty, but they also attract beneficial insects.

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Artichoke Plant History: Origin Of Artichokes In Cooking And Gardening

The artichoke is a funny vegetable. The only part of the plant that’s commonly eaten is the flower bud, and those tasty things that some people call leaves and others call petals are actually neither. They’re bracts – modified leaves that have evolved to look like petals so they can better attract pollinators. They’ve also been attracting gourmands for millennia, as the artichoke has been a favorite food since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

Mythical History of Artichokes

The exact origin of artichokes is unknown, but they almost definitely hail from the Mediterranean region. We can guess at this because the Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all cultivated and ate them. According to the Greek myth, the source of the artichoke is a beautiful young woman named Cynara. One day when Zeus was visiting his brother Poseidon, he spotted Cynara bathing on the shore. If you’re at all familiar with Greek myths, you probably know where this is going. Zeus was smitten – as he always was – and he struck a deal with Cynara that he would make her a goddess so she could come back to live on Mount Olympus and be closer to him.

Cynara liked the arrangement at first (being a goddess has its perks), but she didn’t know anyone on Olympus, and she quickly became lonely and homesick, so she snuck back off to earth to visit her mother. Zeus was enraged – as he always was – and he cast Cynara off of Olympus. When she hit the ground, she became an artichoke plant. To this day the genus, Cynara, is named after her. Let this be a lesson to us all.

More Artichoke Plant History

While the artichoke was popular around the Mediterranean in antiquity, it didn’t make it around the rest of Europe until relatively late. Supposedly, Catherine de Medici introduced them to France in 1533 when she married King Henry II. She loved the things, and since they had a reputation for being an aphrodisiac, she raised quite a few eyebrows in court. Soon after the plants made their way to England, where King Henry VIII was apparently very fond of them, too… probably because of that reputation.

Artichokes didn’t make it to America until the 19th century, when they were brought by French immigrants to Louisiana. Today, 100% of commercial artichoke production in the U.S. takes place in California, the only region that can reliably replicate the plants’ native habitat. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try your hand at growing them, wherever you live.

They are a real sight to behold, and if you want your own artichokes, give it a shot! It’s the least you can do to keep poor Cynara’s legacy alive.

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Heirloom Tomato Plants: Learn About White Beauty Tomatoes

If you have ever been to a farmer’s market you probably saw produce in an array of colors and shapes. If you were lucky, you might have stumbled upon White Beauty tomatoes. This is an uncommon variety of heirloom tomato, but one well worth finding. It really is almost white and has firm flesh and a high sugar content with a touch of acidity for the perfect flavor balance.

About White Beauty Tomatoes

Heirloom tomato plants are experiencing a resurgence, with many varieties once thought lost coming back into production through the careful saving of seed by conscientious gardeners. These thoughtful gardeners have likely saved those seeds for generations, passing a favorite tomato down like a precious gem. This is what happened to White Beauty tomato, which was grown as far back as 1850.

White Beauty tomatoes were once the belle of the ball with a popular seed company of the time, Isabell’s, calling them the best white tomato variety the company had ever grown. White Beauty is a prolific producer with a flattened globe shape and creamy yellowish ivory skin. The flesh is dense, white and has a complex flavor with notes of citrus. The firm flesh has hardly any seeds, making it excellent for slicing or for sauce. Each fruit rings in at 6 to 8 ounces (170-227 g.). The plant is indeterminate and open pollinated in the beefsteak category.

White Beauty Tomato History

Among the many heirloom tomato plants, White Beauty stands out due to its excellent flavor. It was bred in the mid-1800s as a white tomato that would actually have some punch and not be mealy, simply sweet, and slightly bland like its kindred. The flavor holds its own with the tastiest red tomatoes, but the creamy flesh makes it a stand out, especially in the garden.

It is not certain who first developed the tomato, but it was widely grown in the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Then suddenly it all but disappeared. This is a common tale among heirloom fruits and vegetables. Eventually, through a seed exchange, a frugal gardener shared seeds saved for decades and the variety was once again available.

Growing White Beauty Tomatoes

From seed to harvest, White Beauty takes about 85 days. In most zones, start seed indoors, 8 weeks prior to the date of the last frost. Keep soil moderately moist, warm and in medium light. Transplant after hardening off seedlings for a week, once soil has warmed.

Before transplant, work soil well and deeply, incorporating plenty of well-rotted organic matter. Guard seedling transplants from cutworms and numerous other pests. Keep competitive weeds away from the root zones.

As an indeterminate variety, White Beauty will need a tomato cage or other support as it grows. These fruits can be difficult to determine harvest time. Pick them once fruit is firm and weighty, and skin is responsive to a gentle push but does not give.

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History Of Clover Plants: Significance Of Clover Throughout History

Everyone associates clovers and shamrocks with being Irish and St. Patrick’s Day, but what’s the real history behind this legume? For homeowners, it can be an annoying weed, while for serious gardeners, clover is an important lawn alternative, cover crop and attracts bees. Clover, throughout history, has been recognized for various reasons, and a number of myths and stories have grown up around it.

History of Clover in Ireland

The association with Ireland is valid, as clover has held an important place in that country’s history and culture. Legends say that the Druids believed in the symbolic power of a clover leaf, as the number three was considered mystical. Later, when St. Patrick came to the island, he used the three leaves of the clover to explain the Holy Trinity. Much later, wearing green, and especially clovers, was considered risky and a sign of rebellion against British rule.

In the Irish language, seamróg, or shamrock, means simply “summer plant.” It is thought to refer to white clover, Trifolium repens. While it typically produces three-lobed leaves, once in a while white clover will grow four on one stem. The rarity of this led to one of the most enduring clover myths, that a four-leaf clover, or shamrock, is good luck.

Other Clover Myths, Legends, and Sayings

The main reason that clover is famous today as a legendary plant is the association with Ireland and especially St. Patrick. But there are many other stories and sayings that have cropped up around clover:

  • Some traditions say that the three leaves of the clover represent faith, hope, and love. The fourth, of course, is for luck.
  • In the Holy Trinity, the clover represents the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and on four-leaf clovers the fourth is God’s Grace.
  • There is a legend that Eve carried a clover out of the Garden of Eden as a reminder of the paradise she lost.
  • One way to tell a fake four-leaf clover from a genuine one is that real lucky shamrocks have one leaf smaller than the others.
  • Naturalists, historians, and others have debated the true identity of the shamrock for hundreds of years, some believing it is wood sorrel or other types of clover. But most agree it is white clover.
  • “To be in clover,” means to have a carefree life, to be comfortable and prosperous.

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Traditional Floral Design History Throughout Time

Whether celebrating a recent promotion at work or mourning the loss of a loved one, fresh flower arrangements have become a ubiquitous part of many modern cultures. While there are many reasons one may choose to give fresh flowers to their loved ones and acquaintances, the practice is not new. In fact, the use of flowering plants in stylized ways dates as far back as Egyptian times! Let’s look a little deeper at the history of traditional floral design to see how the modern-day bouquet came to be.

Floral Design History

Though the evidence of floral design dates back as early as 2,800 B.C., early Egyptians used flowers much differently than we do today. As one may imagine, these early floral designs were quite the luxury and most often reserved for members of higher society. Flowers used to design ceremonial wreaths and garlands were chosen for their meaning and specific purpose rather than their beauty. One such flower, the lotus blossom, was considered especially sacred.

Both Greeks and Romans incorporated floral design into various ceremonies and celebrations as well. Known most commonly from this period is the extensive use of wreaths and garlands. Fragrant flowers and herbs were used widely by many, especially during festivals, in which all were invited to wear decorative floral crowns. When creating arrangements, floral designers of this time period paid specific attention to the symbolism of the flowers, making certain that the types used were appropriate for the occasion. The abundant and extravagant floral design practices of the Roman empire undoubtedly played a major role in traditional floral design.

Greek and Roman styles continued to influence floral designers, as gradual changes were made to flower arrangements, such as the utilization of fruit and vines. As oriental influence become more prominent, many historic floral designs began experimenting with more simple arrangements which consisted of fewer flowers and carefully arranged lines. After the Renaissance, the history of flower arranging continued to evolve. Surprisingly, however, many great painters began to focus on arranged flowers as their subjects. In this, floral design styles became somewhat more adventurous as florists explored curved and asymmetric arrangements.

As Victorian times approached, flower arranging once again made the shift in which elaborate floral arrangements were meant as a means to display wealth and status within the community. Wealthy gardeners would frequently pick and arrange flowers from their own gardens for display and to give to friends and acquaintances. While mixed arrangements were common, single flower type bouquets were also common during the Victorian period. Given for specific reasons, the type of flower one was given was often symbolic in meaning.

In many ways, modern flower arranging is a culmination of its unique history. Naturalistic and structural arrangements today are still used to celebrate special occasions, as well as offer a sense of well-wishing or well-being. More than ever before, beautiful fresh flower arrangements are finding their places in homes as a way to enjoy the colors and scents of nature. Dried flower arrangements are also popular in today’s décor.

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History Of Tulip Bulbs: The Story Behind Tulip Mania

For many, tulips are a staple in the spring flower garden. With their beautiful, vibrant colors and bold patterns, the blooms are undoubtedly a welcome sign that weather will soon begin to warm. When planted in the fall, even the most novice gardener can grow beautiful, show-stopping tulips in their flower beds.

Easily obtainable to most growers, the import of tulip bulbs continues to increase with each planting season. Classified into singles, doubles, fringed, and even parrot types (only to name a few), and with over 3,000 documented cultivars, there is most likely a tulip that fulfills the preferences of even the most finicky of gardeners. Luckily, for modern gardeners, tulips are no longer quite the extravagance that they were at one time. However, the rich history of tulip bulb cultivation is one from which we can still learn.

Tulip Bulb History

Most likely native to Central Asia, tulip bulbs have long been cultivated for their beauty. Though modernly synonymous with the Netherlands, it wasn’t until the 1600s that tulips were cultivated there. The early scarcity of these wondrous bulbs allowed for tulips to quickly became an item of great status and desire among the Dutch of the time.

And this is where the story behind tulip mania began. As demand for the plant grew, many citizens began paying astronomical prices for a single tulip bulb. While many would trade animals, others would go on to make investments equivalent to or exceeding even the cost of a new home at the time. As prices for tulip bulbs began to skyrocket, soon a system of tulip “stocks” had formed.

The value of different tulip varieties would rise and fall, depending upon the day. Many invested some or nearly all their money into the tulip trade. Eventually, as we all know, this system would go on to collapse, as those wishing to profit from their tulip stocks began to sell. As the price of tulip bulbs continued to fall, those who had invested into the tulip trade suffered great losses. A valuable lesson from which we can still learn today.

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How Did Tilling Begin: Learn About The Origin Of Tilling Gardens

Gardening techniques have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. In ancient times, when people didn’t travel very far and didn’t have access to the worldwide web, different cultures from all over the globe still somehow managed to develop many of the same agricultural techniques and tools. Tilling the soil to create a healthy seed bed is one of these age-old, universal gardening techniques. Though it is impossible to trace the exact origin of tilling, there is evidence that it was done by early Native Americans, ancient Greeks, ancient Egyptians, ancient Romans and many others.

How Did Tilling Begin?

At the dawn of agriculture, mankind learned how to grow food crops through trial and error. However, error back in these days could lead to starvation. Gardening was not just a hobby, like it is for so many today. It was necessary to provide enough food to sustain growing families, tribes and villages. Every plant that was choked out by weeds, rotted from poor drainage or soil consistency greatly impacted the grower. Farmers learned early on to use strong sturdy sticks to hoe, till and dig the soil. As time progressed, these early garden implements evolved to include stones, bones and animal horns to work the soil better.

As tribes and villages grew, so did the need for food crops, so more and more land was used for farming. Simple animal-drawn plows were constructed from sticks, branches and flat, sharp stones or sharpened pieces of wood to till larger crop fields. As man evolved, so did our tools and tilling equipment to include wheels and heavy steel blades or discs. In the 19th century, the invention of the steam engine, brought about a whole new world of agricultural equipment. Motorized equipment could mix, turn and till the soil deeper, faster and on a much larger scale than equipment pulled by animals. Growing populations relied heavily upon new advances in agriculture.

Origin of Tilling Gardens

By the 20th century, agriculture was a lucrative business in the United States thanks to the invention of gas-powered tractors, combines, etc. Large commercial farms popped up all over the country, even regions of the Great Plains were turned into crop fields. However, these regions had arid, dry soil structure which relied on native grasses and other vegetation with deep roots to prevent erosion.

After repeated tilling and growing cycles, the soil became, loose, weak and infertile. Severe drought and windstorms in the 1930s caused a phenomenon known as the Dust Bowl. The Great Plains’ windstorms carried the fine, dry soil in large clouds, called “black blizzards,” which blew from the Great Plains cross county to the eastern coast. The airborne soil particles were so bad near the Plains that many people abandoned their homes and moved away.

The Dust Bowl was a wake-up call to farmers across the globe. Removing native vegetation, deep tilling and heavily working the soil caused years of devastation. Soil and plant sciences became important aspects of agricultural advancements. Today, many gardeners or farmers advocate for the no-till method of farming, but tilling is still a common, traditional practice. Whether to till or not depends on your native climate and landscape, soil type and person beliefs.

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Historical Lily Of The Valley Plant Uses

Blood and tears. According to legend, this is the stuff that
lily
of the valley
is made of. My apologies for revealing and teasing this part
of lily of the valley history to those tucking this sweetly fragrant white
flower into their wedding bouquet right now – it’s a bit TMI at this happy
moment in your life. However, lily of the valley is really a fascinating plant
with a rich history and a number of plant uses – and not all sorrowful. Read on
to learn more.

Lily of the Valley History Highlights

Lily of the valley history is deeply rooted in the Christian
religion where it symbolizes purity and humility. There are 15 mentions of
lilies in the Bible. Lily of the valley is known as “Our Lady’s Tears” or
“Mary’s Tears,” as the plant was borne from wherever Mary’s tears fell during
the crucifixion of Jesus. Christian legends also suggest that the tears of Eve,
which fell as she and Adam were expelled from the Garden of Eden, had the same
effect. Lily of the valley flowers are also dubbed “Jacob’s Tears” for they can
symbolize the tears that Jacob shed for Rachel and Joseph. Given that lily of
the valley is an early springtime bloomer, it is used to signify Christ’s
second coming as well.

Back in the 6th century in a forest in West
Sussex, England, the blood of a French saint and martyr known as St. Leonard
splattered onto the ground as he valiantly fought and defeated a dragon. Story
has it that God made white lilies of the valley stem from the ground wherever
the Saint’s blood fell, and to this day, the floor of St. Leonard’s forest is
still thickly carpeted with them. 

After reading about the blood and tears, you may be feeling
distressed and wanting to say “Mayday! Mayday!” when, in fact, you should be
referring to “May Day” instead. And why is that, you ask? Because lily of the
valley is the official May Day flower in France. The French have a tradition of
giving each other this flower on this special day. The tradition stems back to
May 1, 1561 when the perfumed flowers were offered to King Charles IX as a good
luck token for the coming year. The king took a fancy to this idea and made it
a custom to present the ladies of his court with lily of the valley flowers
every May 1.

Lily of the Valley Plant Uses

What about lily of the valley plant uses? Well, if you’re
the character Walter White from the show Breaking Bad, you could use it kill
drug kingpins. But we’re not advocating using the toxins in the plant to kill
people. This is more a public service announcement that lily
of the valley is poisonous
– all parts of the plant are potentially toxic,
which is really important to know if you have children or pets milling about.
Given the toxicity of this plant, it gives me pause knowing that this flower is
often used in wedding bouquets. But (and I say this in jest) maybe this is
bride’s subtle way of saying to her husband-to-be: “Don’t ever cross me.” In
all seriousness, the presence of the flowers is actually for good luck and
prosperity in married life.

While the lily of the valley can deliver evil, according to
folklore, it can be equally as good as protecting against it. Need to protect
your garden from evil spirits or shield yourself from witches’ spells? Well,
then look to lily of the valley. On a lighter note, lily of the valley is
considered to be the flower of the fairies who upturn the plant’s bell-shaped
flowers and use them as sippy cups.

It appears that lily of the valley flowers also has
medicinal value, hearkening back to Medieval times. It can be used to medicate
a number of conditions but is most well-known for treating heart ailments. It
may be perplexing to you that this plant has medicinal value given its
toxicity, but this is just one of many, many plants that draw a fine line
between poison and panacea. We’ll just leave it to the medical professionals
and qualified herbalists to draw that line.

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Victorian Garden History – Style Of Gardens In Victorian England

Gardening became wildly popular in England during the Victorian era. The wealthy had the space and money to create large, lavish landscapes, but the middle class, with more time on their hands than ever before, were also able to create beautiful gardens in Victorian England. Many elements of Victorian garden style are enduring and remain popular to this day. Let’s learn a little more about Victorian garden history.

Characteristics of Victorian Garden Style

Gardens in Victorian England were diverse, but they shared a number of notable characteristics:

Fences: Although they were usually cast iron, wooden fences were acceptable if cast iron wasn’t available. However, wooden picket fences were considered old-fashioned. Fences were draped with climbing roses or flowering vines.

Flower beds: Although gardeners in the Victorian area liked formal gardens and flower beds, Victorian style also included wild, exotic plants. Flowers were grown along walkways or in large, round beds, or if space and money allowed, in geometric shapes or intricate mosaics.

Plants: Certain flowers such as hollyhocks, larkspur, snapdragons, pansies and sunflowers were considered outdated and passé. Victorian gardeners preferred large, bold plants like cannas, lilies, dahlias, ornamental grasses, castor beans, ferns, gladiolus or coleus.

Greenhouses and exotic plants: Collecting plants imported from around the world became a popular hobby for Victorian-era gardeners. Wealthier gardeners overwintered tender plants in greenhouses.

Lawns: Green lawns were an essential element of Victorian garden style, used to frame a lovely home and for socializing or lawn games. Lawns in Victorian England were trimmed with a scythe, so they lacked the perfectly manicured appearance of many lawns today.

Trees and shrubs: Victorian garden style often implemented shrubs and trees, both evergreen and deciduous, as specimen plants. However, they were also planted along property lines or in mixed hedges.

Ornamentation: Decorative elements included topiary, sundials on pedestals, stone or marble walkways, cast iron ornaments, statues, pools and fountains, urns filled with flowers and foliage, vine-covered trellises.

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Sassafras Plant Origins: Learn About The History Of Sassafras Trees

Sassafras may sound tropical and exotic, but it actually comes from this continent and is known as America’s only native spice. The leaves, bark and roots of the sassafras tree were used extensively by Native Americans for both flavoring food and for medicinal purposes. The history of sassafras use was only recorded for the first time in 1577, but it doubtless goes back well before that time. Many traditional sassafras uses continue in some form today.

Sassafras Plant Origins

Sassafras is the name given both to the spice and to the beautiful tree from which the spice is made. If you live in the eastern or southeastern regions of this country, you have doubtless seen the sassafras tree in woodland areas. Its native range extends from Ontario, Canada into eastern Mexico and as far west as Kansas and Oklahoma.

No shrinking violet, the sassafras tree can grow over 100 feet (30 meters) tall in hardwood forests, developing a trunk girth of over 15 feet (4.5 meters) wide. It was given its name by a Spanish botanist in the sixteenth century, possibly as a mispronunciation of the Spanish word for the large plant genus “Saxifrage.”

Traditional Sassafras Uses

The history of sassafras on this continent goes back a long way. Native Americans used the sassafras foliage extensively in cooking and in medicine. The Choctaw ground the dried leaves to make a type of thickener, and also to add flavor to foods. The Cherokees made sassafras tea from the leaves and used it to “purify blood” as well as to treat a range of other health issues like skin diseases and rheumatism. They made poultices from the leaves as well that were used to cleanse wounds and sores, while the bark of the roots was the main ingredient in a treatment for diarrhea.

These uses were recorded as early as the 1500’s, but may have begun much earlier. In 1578, it was introduced in Europe by Sir Walter Raleigh, who brought it back to England after a trip to the Virginia colony. In time, colonists learned of the plant’s medicinal uses and touted a tea made of sassafras leaves as a cure for whatever ails you. They began trading sassafras as medicine that could help with almost any ailment. It became well-liked in England, and even more popular when it was believed that the spice retarded old age. However, the use of sassafras tea declined when a rumor circulated that sassafras was a cure for venereal disease.

In more modern times, sassafras oil and has been extracted from the tree and used in flavoring drinks like tea, sarsaparilla and root beer. It is very pungent with a cinnamon-type smell. In time, it was discovered that the actual flavoring ingredient in the oil was the chemical compound “safole,” which the FDA banned when it was found to cause cancer in rats. Today, root beer is still made from sassafras root, but the root is first treated to remove the safrole. Powder made from ground sassafras leaves is often used to thicken gumbo in the South.

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History Of Cover Crops: Learn About Cover Crop Use Through Time

Also known as green manure, cover crops have been used in farming and gardening since ancient times. From the biggest farms to backyard vegetable gardens, cover crops can be used to enrich the soil, prevent erosion, improve water penetration, and for many other reasons. Here’s a little history behind this smart growing practice.

What is a Cover Crop?

The term refers to anything that is grown on a farm or in a garden that is not a cash crop. In other words, it is not grown to sell or make a profit or to be used by the gardener. It serves a secondary purpose. Cover crops are usually grown in the winter when the fields are done producing and are then worked into the soil in the spring.

History of Cover Crops

Agriculture is an ancient practice, first beginning more than 10,000 years ago. And it probably didn’t take long for early farmers to realize the benefits of cover crops. There are references to the practice from ancient China and India. In western writing, we see that the ancient Romans were using cover crops, but it was likely a practice that began earlier than that.

In the U.S., cover crops were used by some of our founding fathers, including George Washington. The monoculture on tobacco farms in the South depleted soil of nutrients, and by the late 1700s, the use of cover crops grew in popularity and really became essential.

Cover crop use through time has been important in agriculture for a number of reasons. This old gardening and farming practice has a lot of benefits for the farm:

  • Cover crops slow down or prevent the erosion of soil.
  • They smother out invasive weeds.
  • With the right cover crops chosen, the soil is enriched with nitrogen.
  • Cover crops improve the biodiversity of an area.
  • Cover crops enhance the structure of the soil and improve water filtration.
  • This is an organic way to control pests.

Traditional Cover Crops

Cover crops were widely used, even in big agriculture, right up to the middle of the 1900s. Use dropped off in favor of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer. But now there is renewed interest in cover crops and in using less of those industrial chemicals. Gardeners can get in on this too. Here are some plants traditionally used as cover crops to get you thinking:

Legumes are especially popular as cover crops, and have been since ancient times, because they fix nitrogen and add it to the soil where cash crops can benefit from it.

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Learn About The History Of The Gardenesque Style

In the late 18th and early 19th century, gardening purely for ornamental purposes became popular and landscape architecture or design styles were born. Before this point, only royalty or the extremely wealthy used traditional landscaping to accent their properties. Before the late 18th century, the average family still relied heavily on the herbs and edible plants that they grew in their small gardens. The primary function of the average home garden was to provide food. Wealthy landowners, however, had the space and money to install garden beds that were purely ornamental. Unique ornamental plant specimens were rare and pricey, making a lush, ornamental landscape a sign of stature for those who could afford them.

As import and trade relations improved, unique specimen plants became more affordable and easier to get. Advances in food production also took some importance off growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in the home garden. Many homeowners began to replace functional edible gardens, with purely ornamental gardens, craving the stature and appeal of the gardens of the wealthy.

History of the Gardenesque Style

In the early days of landscape design and architecture, there were two main landscape styles, formal garden style and picturesque garden style. Formal garden design consisted of perfectly placed and religiously trimmed ornamental plants like elaborate knot-work gardens. Formal garden design heavily portrayed man’s control over nature. The picturesque garden style, on the other hand, was a more naturalistic approach to garden design. Ornamental beds were designed to complement natural elements of the landscape or backdrop. Plants in picturesque gardens were celebrated for their unique natural forms. However, to fans of formal garden design, the picturesque landscape was viewed as shaggy and unkempt.

In the early 19th century, Scottish botanist John Claudius Loudon introduced a new style of garden design that he called the Gardenesque style. This new garden style incorporated both formal and picturesque garden design techniques. Annual and perennial bedding plants were laid out in colorful, naturalistic curving swaths similar to picturesque design, while exotic, specimen trees and shrubs were perfectly placed in locations to make them stand out from the naturalistic landscape around them. These specimen plants were left to grow into their own unique natural forms, as in picturesque design, or they were shaped and trimmed into formal topiaries or arbors. Gardenesque style celebrated both the natural and formal use of plants.

Louden believed that the picturesque garden style was too easy to mistake for wild nature. He advocated that a garden’s design should be viewed as a thought and feeling evoking works of art. Architect, writer and gardenesque design advocate John Arthur Hughes described the this style as “distinguished by the trees and shrubs, whether in masses or in groups, being planted and thinned in such a manner as to never touch each other, so that each viewed near each tree or shrub would be seen distinctly, while from a distance they show a high degree of beauty. Grace rather than grandeur is its characteristic.”

While the picturesque style promoted native plants, exotic plant species were all the rage in Victorian gardenesque. Because many of these fashionable plants were palms or other rare, expensive tropicals, glass conservatories and greenhouses became a popular part of gardenesque design. Gardenesque designs also frequently contained elaborate wrought iron garden furniture and décor, meandering curved paths through swales of plants and circular or geometrical shaped flower beds. Bedding plants were also laid out in blocks or patterns to give the landscape a tapestry-like look. Elaborate fountains were also common, as they were in formal designs; however, in gardenesque style, they were usually placed in naturalistic groupings of perennials, rather than circled by formally trimmed plants.

In the Victorian era, when unique curiosities were all the rage and flowers were given specific meanings, the gardenesque design became hugely popular in America and England because it allowed gardeners to incorporate exotic rare specimen plants or garden features and meaningful flowers. Today, elements of gardenesque garden design are still incorporated into landscapes. Oftentimes, specimen plants are accentuated by colorful bedding plants. However, today the plants which were once considered exotic and rare, such as rhododendron and camellia, are much more common.

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Kitchen Garden History: Learn About the History Of Kitchen Gardens

After a period of being passé, kitchen gardens are in again, albeit not exactly as they were grown in the 17th or 18th century. The history of kitchen gardens can actually be traced even farther back than the colonial era, back into the Middle Ages when a kitchen garden was necessary to feed castle denizens, and possibly even farther into history. So what is the origin of the kitchen garden? Let’s delve into some kitchen garden history and learn more about how they came about.

Origin of the Kitchen Garden

Certainly, kitchen gardens existed during the Middle Ages, but it is possible that they arose even earlier since the ancient Romans and Greeks wrote of growing and eating produce as well as numerous herbs. These early kitchen gardens transitioned into English cottage gardens and French potagers.

Settlers arriving to the New World brought with them the seeds and techniques of these predecessors. Land was abundant and rich, and almost anything would grow in it; however, the actual variety of the kitchen garden was often scant. Nonetheless, a kitchen garden was a way to extend the typical diet of meat and grain and infuse a household with treasured recipes from the homeland.

History of Kitchen Gardens

A kitchen garden during colonial times was about an acre in size, often on a much more sizable property. The property was used to grow livestock and the grains to feed the livestock. This meant that men were busy with the work of keeping a farm running, leaving the labor of a kitchen garden to the women and their children.

And work it definitely was. Remember, this is prior to drip lines and proper plumbing. Watering a garden of that size took up significant time and energy, as it had to either be drawn from a well or trudged to the garden from a stream. Not to mention weeding, pest removal, planting, enriching the soil, and, of course, harvesting.

The layout of a typical kitchen garden during the 18th century was comprised of raised rectangular beds bisected by walkways. Crops depended upon the wealth of the household. Many of the vegetables we know today were in evidence then, albeit heirloom varieties, along with some not so familiar produce such as burnet, gooseberry, skirret and purslane. If a property had significant wealth, the garden might include such delicacies as artichokes, cauliflower and celery.

Herbs also played a prominent part in the garden, although at the time they were grown primarily for use medicinally (or perhaps to cover the stench of rancid meat) rather that to flavor food. As grocery stores became more common, cities grew and transportation became faster and easier and, of course, refrigeration was more readily available, so kitchen gardens fell from favor. That is with the exception of wartime Victory Gardens, which were grown not only to cover the shortfalls found at the grocers but also as part of one’s patriotic duty.

Today, there is resurgence in kitchen gardens due to the desire to have nutritious, chemical free sustainable food. With today’s modern conveniences, it doesn’t take a small army and hours of labor to raise a small kitchen garden. And along the way you might even incorporate some scorzonera or smallage (wild celery) just as our colonial foremother’s did.

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Snowdrop Bulb Information: Learn About The History Of Snowdrops

Snowdrop plants have long been a welcome addition to flower gardens and landscapes. Among the first blooming bulbs to begin to flower, usually in late winter or early spring, delicate snowdrops are highly sought after. These diminutive plants, which commonly pop up through snow, offer growers a small glimmer of hope that warm springtime temperatures are on the way. Though commonly found throughout the United Kingdom and in some areas of the United States, it is thought that the plants were introduced and then began to spread and naturalize.

History of Snowdrops

Throughout history, snowdrop flowers have played a symbolic role. Signifying purity, hope, and even sympathy, these small, pristine white flowers have gained a dedicated following throughout the years. While many cultures made special note of the snowdrop in origin stories related to the creation of snow and in reference to the shift from winter to spring, those in Victorian times viewed the snowdrop flower as quite unlucky. In fact, the sight of a snowdrop was considered to be a sign of possible death and misfortune.

Snowdrop Bulb Information

While very similar to the untrained eye, there are actually many different species and varieties of snowdrop flowers. Generally, species differ in regards to the size of the flower and green marking patterns on the blooms. While some gardeners may not notice these intricacies, true galanthophiles are able to appreciate these differences. Many may even go to great lengths (and costs) to procure these cultivars, ultimately increasing the diversity of the plants within their own personal snowdrop collections.

Luckily, for those of us without extensive experience growing snowdrops, many more common (and less expensive) varieties are available for the home gardener. Cold tolerant and resistant to many pests like deer, snowdrops are an excellent choice to those in desperate need of early flowering plants. Snowdrop bulbs planted in the fall, when allowed to properly chill, will bloom in late winter to early spring. Bulbs should be planted immediately, and should not be allowed to dry out.

Well-drained locations which receive shade throughout the summer are ideal. In order for the bulbs to reproduce and begin to naturalize, make certain that they are located in a place where they will not be disturbed. With simple garden preparation, growers will be rewarded with lovely white spring blooms for years to come.

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Learn About Safflower History And Uses

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) is an unusual but lovely addition to any garden. It produces brilliant red, yellow or orange flowers atop stems (up to 3 feet tall) lined with spiny thistle-like foliage. It has the distinction as being one of the oldest crops known to mankind and is believed to have been grown in Egypt over 4,000 years ago, and possibly in the Euphrates before that. As you can imagine, a plant that has withstood the test of time for so long has been utilized in many different ways by different cultures since its beginnings in the Fertile Crescent region. Read on to discover some safflower history highlights and the uses of safflower plants in gardens over the years.

History of Safflowers

In Ancient Egypt, safflower brightly dyed bindings used to wrap mummies as well as provided an orange tint to ceremonial ointments used in religious rituals. Garlands of safflower blossoms were placed in tombs (such as the pharaoh Tutankhamun), with the intent of providing comfort to the deceased in afterlife. Charred safflower plants were used to make Egyptian Kohl (cosmetic eyeliner). Safflower oil was also used to light the lamps of the pharaohs.

In the 2nd century BC, safflower was introduced to China by the Chinese diplomat Zhang Qian (Han Dynasty) upon his return from expeditions to the west. Dried flowers and flower extracts are a common component of many Chinese medicines. Safflower petals, in particular, according to traditional Chinese medicine, promoted blood circulation and facilitated the healing of fractures, contusions and strains. Safflower was also utilized in ancient Chinese cosmetics (blush – starting in 1760 BCE) and as a clothing dye. Chinese women massaged their scalps with safflower oil to maintain lustrous and healthy hair.

Safflower made its way into Europe from Egypt in 1551. If you’ve ever used the phrase “red tape” to describe government function (wouldn’t that be all of us?) then you’d be interested to know that safflower plays a role in that. In 16th century England, legal documents were tied together with red tape to discourage and show evidence of tampering and safflower was used to dye those bindings red. In the 18th century, safflower was used to enhance food as Italy, France and Britain used safflower dye to color cheese and flavor sausage.

What about the history of safflowers in the United States? A University of California research station report from 1901 is the first record of a safflower planting in the U.S. Fast forward to 1925 when safflower seed was obtained from Russia and India by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for research and analysis. It was determined that safflower had potential as an oilseed crop, but at the time its oil content was deemed too low to be profitable. Research continued and more disease resistant varieties were developed with less hull and higher oil content. In the 1950’s, commercial production of safflower began in earnest to process safflower as an oil base for paints (it is still used in paints and varnishes today). As the 1960’s approached, the market demand for safflower was on the rise due to safflower’s growing popularity as an edible vegetable oil.

To recap, over the long course of safflower history, this plant has been used as a dye, in cosmetics, medicines, food and as a byproduct in paints – just to name a few. But – is safflower still relevant today? It sure is. Safflower is still used today and provides three main products: oil (for margarine and salad oils), meal for livestock and birdseed. It is grown in about 60 countries with world seed production reaching around 800,000 tons per year. India accounts for half of the world’s production followed by the United States.

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